Peter joined Collingwood Harriers in 1961 having lived next to Peter Norman, a then member of the Magpies and a future Olympic Silver Medallist.

“For some stupid reason”, says Peter, “I became a race walker!” However he goes on to say that he was extremely lucky to be coached by the late, great George Knott (London Olympian 1948) and multiple Australian representative and gentleman extraordinaire, Bob Gardiner.

Peter suggests that he always showed promise as a walker because early in his education he beat his mum home after she dropped him off at school.

After his primary schooling at Westgarth, Peter went onto Collingwood Technical School and remembers it as a pretty rough establishment. However it was during these years that Peter developed his talents in the walking discipline.

Good enough to win a NSW junior championship, Peter was a prolific points winner for the Club and was a member of the Club’s first Junior Track Premiership in the 1964/65 season, a feat that was repeated the very next summer. Peter was also first across in a Victorian junior championship, but admits he deserved to be disqualified after ‘running’ the last fifty yards in his desperate effort to beat John Sheard of Box Hill.

As a result of the promise shown by Peter in his performances of 1966, George Knott presented him with his 1948 Olympic singlet. This, Peter rightly treasured for many years, but in 2001 decided that the Club was the rightful owner of this valuable piece of memorabilia and travelled from Perth to present the singlet back to Collingwood Harriers on the occasion of the Club’s 75th anniversary. Although George had passed away some months earlier, it was terrific that his widow Judy was at the rooms to witness the singlet’s return home!

When Peter moved into the senior ranks he was keen to give up the walking caper and compete as a sprinter, certainly possessing a deal of ability in that area of the sport. A major dispute occurred when despite combining the disciplines during the season, Peter was only selected for the walk in the final. There was, it is fair to say, a bit of a blow up, with Peter threatening not to walk. It was a pretty tense time, but it was a very sticky situation – Peter didn’t really want to walk, but he was that good!

Not long after, when Peter finished school, he joined the army and subsequently drifted away from the Club. He did very well at recruit camp, having had a bit of a head start on some of the others by participating in the C.M.F. with 2nd Commando Company at Ripponlea. In 1969 Peter was sent to Townsville to the 2nd Battalion – The Royal Australian Regiment and just a year later found himself at Nui Dat in South Vietnam. He served as an infantry private for 13 months in the Vietnam conflict. Peter stayed with the Army for 28 years and had obtained the rank of Major upon retirement.

Peter has continued his links with the army since his retirement by participating in volunteer work supporting returned veterans and their families. He served as President of Yarra Valley Legacy in Victoria and was later President of Perth Legacy in 2006-08. He was inspired to help his colleagues when he saw the trouble many of the Vietnam Vets were experiencing upon their return home. Peter admits that he himself went through some dark times and credits his background of good family and upbringing as a big part in coming through to the ‘other side’. As part of his recovery he trained to run a marathon and in fact competed in four, recording a best time of 3 hours 6 minutes.

Just to show his versatility, Peter spent 10 years acting as Tour Manager for comedian Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson, a job that took to him many different parts of the world.

In 2013 Peter had a hip replacement, which he is pleased to report has been a huge success. He has toyed with the thought of chasing some compensation from the Club due to all the activity from his youth, but reckons the number of jumps made from planes and helicopters during his years in the forces will probably see the Club absolved from any responsibility.

Peter makes the occasional trip east to Melbourne and is always a welcome visitor the Club. His two children, both in Perth, Rebecca and Travis, have provided Pete with two beautiful grandchildren to, as he says, “spoil rotten!”


August 2014